Plucky Hucknall give title-chasing Cuckney a fright

PUTTING HIS BACK INTO IT -- a Hucknall bowler trying to stem the flow of Cuckney runs (PHOTO BY: Glenn Ashley)
PUTTING HIS BACK INTO IT -- a Hucknall bowler trying to stem the flow of Cuckney runs (PHOTO BY: Glenn Ashley)
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They might still be bottom of the table in their maiden Notts Premier League season. But plucky Hucknall again proved they have the spirit it will take to avoid relegation when giving title-chasing Cuckney a fright.

For the third time in six matches, rain prevented a positive outcome at the New Gatehouse Ground. But not before Robin Maxwell’s boys had made a brave fist of a run chase in their most confident and assertive batting display of the campaign so far.

Cuckney, who now sit as high as second in the table, felt confident enough to declare on 210-3 after just 38 overs. Rain had already struck, and skipper William Butler wanted to ensure he gave his side sufficient time to bowl out the hosts.

However, Hucknall were in no mood to buckle and, buoyed by their second win of the season the previous week, they had reached 167-5 from just 24 overs, with deadly South African Dale Campbell still at the crease, when time had to be called at 7.30 pm and the match was abandoned as a rain-affected draw. They collected nine points to leave them still stranded by the same amount at the foot of the table, but just 19 behind fifth-placed Notts CCC Academy with 11 games still to play.

The beginning of the match was delayed by light drizzle, and reduced to 46 overs per side. Cuckney were asked to bat first and got off to a fine start in the hands of openers James Hawley and Luke Thomas, who put on 69 for the first wicket against some ordinary bowling from Will Spray (1-52 in 13 overs) and Suhail Ahmed (five overs for 30 runs).

Spray did make a breakthrough when having Thomas (30, five fours) nicely taken behind the wicket by Campbell before a downpour forced the players off the field with the total reading 71-1 off 12 overs.

Thankfully, the square was fully covered and after a mopping-up operation, play resumed at 4.10 pm, allowing Cuckney to go on the hunt for maximum batting points. They duly achieved that aim thanks mainly to Hawley carrying his bat for an unbeaten 98, which included two sixes and eight fours, and also to good support from skipper Butler (27no, three fours), with whom he shared 57 for the second wicket, and Nick Langford (32, one six and three fours), with whom he put on 63 for the third wicket.

However, Hucknall did bowl much better in this spell, restricting the boundaries and picking up two more wickets via Max Thompson (1-65 in 12 overs) and Maxwell, before the declaration came with Hawley two short of a century.

Because it was unlikely that Cuckney would be able to bowl all their overs in the time remaining, a Hucknall victory was always a remote possibility. But their reply set off in a hurry, with openers Josh Downie (46 off 37 balls, one six and seven fours) and Aaron Simpson (26, three fours) racing to 89 off the first ten overs.

Overseas bowler Trent Lawford was hit for six over mid-wicket by Downie, although Simpson was fortunate to hear no-ball called when his off-stump was uprooted by the Australian.

The Hucknall pair posted the team’s highest first-wicket partnership (94) of the season before Downie, who also tried two outrageous ‘Dilshan Scoops’, was bowled by Hawley (2-41 in seven overs), who succeeded in slowing down the run rate alongside fellow spinner Conor Tansley (3-37 in seven overs).

Tansley went on to remove Simpson, Scott Harris and Richard Greatorex (18), while Hawley bagged the prized scalp of Maxwell for 12. But Campbell kept the scoreboard ticking over until the end, firing an undefeated 36 from 29 balls that included two fours and a six that flew out of the ground.